My wife says grateful people are happy, and I want to be happy. Don’t we all? I like to think I am peachy-keen-ecstatic, perhaps with an occasional snarkastic twist. It is generally a wonderful world for me, but at times not so much. In many ways, I also think I’m fortunate to exist at all and the timing seems good.
This opinion is based mostly on my thoughts, but also on an essay by Daniel C. Dennett titled “Thank Goodness.” It’s from an anthology I’m reading, Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, by Louise M. Anthony (author and editor). Here’s a quote separately attributed to Dennett about happiness: “The secret of happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.”
Now, given this reciprocal relationship between happiness and gratitude, isn’t gratitude (called by some the least felt of all human emotions) usually toward someone? When folks say we should be grateful, I agree. But to whom? Thank you, god, for all this that and the other good things, but not for any of the bad stuff? (we need a font for sarcasm) Thank you, science and scientists, doctors, researchers, inventors of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals?
Thank goodness is supposedly a euphemistic idiom for saying thank god without saying god, for some reason. Kind of like saying dad gum it for god damn it! Yesterday, that HGTV show guy in Mississippi said dad gum. (Preacher’s kid) Did anyone complain?
Is there more to this? Can saying thank goodness be useful to folks, even those who don’t believe a god exists; or that some god, spirit, or invisible force of nature did not intentionally cause the good luck?
And if there is a god, does he, she, or it give a crap if you’re grateful or not? I’ve mentioned before about my sister praying for a job and promising to go to Mass every Sunday if she got it. Can you imagine any god reaching out to shake hands to seal the deal? Nice of her to promise to keep her Catholic duty and avoid being sent to hell, but you had to know Noreen (and many others) to navigate such hazy reasoning.
If you are a believer, you may believe that in your superior wonderfulness you can repay god’s good graces in some way. Think about that. Talk about the man who has everything! (Dennett used that cliché in his essay, too.) Noreen worked at that job until she was 80 (good grief!). What if she had stopped going to church? Would she have lost the job? If I had told her that such logic is a basis of the protestant health and wealth movement, I’d a been given a look followed by some manner of listen, baby brother, condescending big sis-splaining. I got lots of that.
But Dennett claims saying thank goodness is not only good for the skeptical crowd, it’s okay for everyone. I agree. It makes sense. Goodness is just that, with or without the god factor. People, places, and things that are good foster more goodness. Intentions and actions that make the world a better place today and, in the future, comprise goodness. We can be grateful for goodness. We can repay goodness with more goodness.
Thank goodness for music, for art, for love, for the good side of human nature. Thank goodness for clean drinking water, medical science adding healthy, good quality years; for schools and teachers. We can be grateful for trees and plant more. We can find ways to help others. Or, I suppose you can say thank God. It’s up to you, but goodness is real, and we can repay it backward, forward, or right here and now. Can you add to my thank goodness list?
Have a goodness-filled weekend, and enjoy every day, if possible.